Happy ever the op­ti­mist

No mat­ter how many re­la­tion­ships have ended in fail­ure, or life chal­lenges she’s faced, So­phie Kip­ner re­fuses to feel pes­simistic. Time we all fol­lowed suit?

Grazia (UK) - - Con­tents -

HELLO, MY NAME IS SO­PHIE and I’m an op­ti­mist. Friends worry for me. They talk of an in­ter­ven­tion – and would force me to at­tend an Op­ti­mists Anony­mous meet­ing if it did in­deed ex­ist – be­cause no mat­ter how much re­jec­tion I get, no mat­ter how many id­iots I date, no mat­ter how old I feel, I still be­lieve love is just around the cor­ner. So, the ques­tion is… does that mean I’m crazy?

I’ll ad­mit it: I’m op­ti­mistic be­cause of the high. I get ex­cited about the idea that things are go­ing to get bet­ter. I found my­self air-pump­ing while stuck in traf­fic the other day when a song came on the ra­dio that re­minded me of guy I used to date, be­cause – in­stead of be­ing pissed off I was late – I was think­ing how grate­ful I was to have not been knocked by some bad de­ci­sion that would have taken me down an­other road. I was in grid­lock, but I was free! Op­ti­mism is a choice. It’s dif­fi­cult and im­prac­ti­cal to be pos­i­tive all the time (of course I have mo­ments when I worry and stress), but how I choose to see things is ac­tu­ally all I can re­ally con­trol, and I’ve no­ticed that think­ing pos­i­tively does lead to my hap­pi­ness. It means that the chance of an even bet­ter out­come than I could imag­ine ex­ists.

You see, I grew up in a house of op­ti­mism. It was Cal­i­for­nia in the ’80s and sad­ness didn’t have a seat at our ta­ble (which has its own prob­lems). My dad, the king of pos­i­tiv­ity, wouldn’t even let me think neg­a­tively. The thing I would get in most trou­ble for wasn’t stay­ing out late or not do­ing my home­work, it was for play­ing the vic­tim. He had no time for that, so he’d re­frame ev­ery­thing.

In­stead of get­ting con­so­la­tion when my first re­la­tion­ship went pear-shaped, he put his hand out for a high five. ‘That’s great!’ he screamed, joy­ously, point­ing out that this was a good thing. To him, this meant I was lucky enough to feel, that I had earned real emo­tion. I was alive!

Some­times, it would drive me mad. I wanted to be sad and mis­er­able just to rebel, like when I had op­er­a­tions on my re­pro­duc­tive sys­tem in my early twen­ties and he told me he knew I’d be OK, even af­ter the doc­tors warned of po­ten­tial com­pli­ca­tions. I wanted him to ad­mit it was a ter­ri­ble thing, that I de­served his sym­pa­thy, this sad­ness. I in­ter­preted his as­sured­ness, his ‘all will be OK’ out­look as mean­ing my pain wasn’t real.

In the end, though, he was right, and I re­alised my pes­simism was only a plea to le­git­imise my­self. As if I would win points for hav­ing to en­dure real shit.

Turned out, be­ing happy was in­fec­tious. Reg­u­larly, my friends would come over so my par­ents could in­stil in them this power of pos­i­tiv­ity. It felt good to hear that the op­ti­mists could do any­thing. We cel­e­brated imag­i­na­tion and pos­si­bil­ity, which in turn in­fused us with creativ­ity. We weren’t im­mune to strug­gle, of course. We had to deal with death, with un­cer­tainty, with be­ing hu­man. But the difference, maybe, was that we were told change was al­ways for the bet­ter, no mat­ter how scary it felt at the time.

The trou­ble is, if you’re too op­ti­mistic in love, you’re made to feel al­most in­sane. But op­ti­mism in love just means con­tin­u­ing to be­lieve that things have gone wrong for a rea­son, to bring you closer to the one you’re sup­posed to be with. Yet the older we get, the more ridicu­lous we are made to feel for be­liev­ing it’s still out there, de­spite our fail­ures.

I’ve lived with a ma­gi­cian who, while kind, would get so wasted he’d crash his car (mul­ti­ple times). I’ve said ‘I love you’

I’D RATHER RISK BE­ING AC­CUSED OF HAV­ING TOO-HIGH EX­PEC­TA­TIONS THAN SET­TLING

to a guy who thought my eyes were blue (they’re not), and I’ve dated a guy who was lead­ing a com­pletely du­plic­i­tous life while he planned our fu­ture. He even told me he had to have sex with other women to give them clo­sure. With his dick. That re­ally sucked. I tried to wal­low in that star­tling news but my brother and dad were right there next to me, try­ing to high-five me again, thrilled that I’d dodged yet an­other bul­let.

De­spite be­ing ca­su­ally ridiculed by my friends, who think they’re wit­ness­ing a train wreck, I’ve only been chas­tised for my op­ti­mism by some­one I was dat­ing once. I’d just moved to Lon­don to live with a guy I’d been friends with for 13 years. I think I knew we weren’t right – we were so dif­fer­ent – but I thought how ro­man­tic it would be if I were wrong. I wanted Paula Ab­dul to be right: that op­po­sites re­ally do at­tract. So, there I was on our first week­end to­gether, af­ter years of courtship, but in­stead of frol­ick­ing around a new city on pub crawls, swing­ing around sign posts and mak­ing out in the rain be­tween pints, he told me he was go­ing golf­ing. Golf­ing.

My chin hit the floor so loudly he had no choice but to feign con­fu­sion and ask what else I had in mind. I told him about the rain and the danc­ing and the beer. He told me we weren’t in Sin­gin’ In The Rain. But we weren’t 10 years into a marriage, I pleaded; just a week into liv­ing to­gether. Nev­er­the­less, he played golf and I went to the movies, and the re­la­tion­ship was over be­fore the cred­its. The prob­lem was, its demise dug its teeth in me be­cause it made me ques­tion if my ideas of love were un­re­al­is­tic. In the end, our re­la­tion­ship failed be­cause he made me feel crazy and I made him feel bor­ing. Be­ing with each both other am­pli­fied and threat­ened who we were at our core: my op­ti­mism made him feel bad for be­ing a re­al­ist, and that would never change be­cause that was who we were. The re­jec­tion hurt, but I pulled my­self up. Even­tu­ally, it was just an­other dodged bul­let.

No mat­ter how ter­ri­bly so many of my ro­man­tic mis­ad­ven­tures have turned out, I al­ways jump in whole­heart­edly at the next op­por­tu­nity – as if I’ve never tasted that dis­ap­point­ment. De­spite even writ­ing a novel about a delu­sional girl try­ing to find love (which doesn’t bode well on first dates when asked what I do), I still hold on to the idea that true love ex­ists for us all. I’d rather run the risk of be­ing ac­cused of hav­ing too-high ex­pec­ta­tions than of set­tling.

And it’s not just about love. It ap­plies to the rest of my life. I at­tribute my over­all hap­pi­ness, the fact I’m lucky enough to work do­ing what I love, that I get to ex­plore and meet won­der­ful peo­ple and have a wide and loyal friend cir­cle, to my op­ti­mism. When I’m pos­i­tive, I’m a bet­ter friend, bet­ter sis­ter, daugh­ter, woman, hu­man. And when I wob­ble, which is often, I re­set the switch. Some­times, life is so chal­leng­ing it can feel like a lie to re­frame it into some­thing pos­i­tive, but you have to try. Pity par­ties – at length – are tire­some. Forc­ing a smile in the face of ad­ver­sity isn’t fak­ing it; it’s just mak­ing your mind­set your re­al­ity... be­cause even­tu­ally, your brain can’t even tell the difference be­tween what you think and what’s real. So you might as well imag­ine the best. Op­ti­mists, are you with me? n So­phie Kip­ner’s book, ‘The Op­ti­mist’, is out now (£14.99, Un­bound)

P H OTO G R A P H JES­SICA SAM­PLE

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